Criminal Mind of Enfant Terrible
©2019 David Caprita. All Rights Reserved.
— Keyser Söze, “The Usual Suspects”
Cops can be assholes. I know, I know, people will tell you there are good ones. There are. But in my experience, the ratio is one good cop for every ten bad ones. For every cop who lets you off with a warning for speeding, there are the other nine who would just as gladly slam your head against the hood and cuff your hands behind your back.
Maybe it was my experience growing up in the deep South. Even though I was a good ol’ Southern boy, my ethnicity was Sicilian/Romanian. And I looked it. So, before it was unpopular to look like a terrorist, I looked like a terrorist. With a Southern accent. Very suspicious.
So, the times I was pulled over or questioned coming out of a bar, inevitably arguing with a cop, I was already on the losing side. That’s where my perception of most cops being assholes grew from, I guess.
I was thinking the other day about the first time I had an altercation with a cop. I automatically went back to my teen drinking, fighting days in Milton, Florida. I was fifteen, in junior high school and used to raise hell.
Then the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was much earlier than that. Much earlier. Like, say, six years old. Yeah, the first time I realized I thought differently, behaved differently, perceived the world differently than your average cop, I had just graduated first grade.
Maybe my hubris came from the joy I was feeling at the time. It was summer and I was full of piss and vinegar for having graduated with honors. Straight A’s in everything. My first grade teacher wrote on one of my report cards, which I proudly toted home to my mother, “Ted has the reading ability of a fifth grader!” My IQ was stratospheric.
Also I had appeared onstage for the first time in a Christmas pageant, my first of many times performing before a roomful of people. Granted, they were all forgiving, fawning parents but I felt like a star. So maybe that had something to do with it. I was feeling my oats.
I was hanging out with my best friend and also my cousin, Frankie. Both of us six years old, walking down a boulevard busy with traffic, in the residential area of Martins Ferry, Ohio, a small village on the Ohio River just across from Wheeling, West Virginia.
I had recently learned a trick that I had gotten from my older brother, or some classmate or maybe even from Frankie himself. The trick was, whenever an eighteen wheeler roared by, you could stand on the edge of the road and pump your right fist like your pulling a lanyard in the roof of the cab that blasted the truck horn. Anyone can do it. But it gets the best results when you’re a buxom girl in a car in the other lane. Or a cute little six year old kid on the side of the road.
There we are, walking down the boulevard of our neighborhood where traffic going through town would travel. This was before the days of interstates. As a big truck would drive by – and to tell you the truth, I don’t even think we waited for an eighteen wheeler, pumping our fists at bread trucks and mail men – we’d oscillate our arms furiously with a demon-like Huckleberry Finn look on our faces and sure enough, the drivers would oblige us, a hair-raising “Honk Honk!” as the truck was just abreast of us.
It seemed to us the drivers had just as much fun as we two kids did in this little highway pas de deux.
But, of course, if you’re having fun, someone’s gotta put a stop to it. Out of nowhere a patrol car inscribed with “Martins Ferry Police” on its door pulled up right in front of us, the driver’s door opened, a cop climbed out of the driver’s side. He appeared much bigger and more ferocious than he probably was. To two six year old kids, he was the fiercest cop we’d ever seen or ever would see in our future encounters with the law.
“What are you boys doing?” We were speechless. It was obvious what we were doing. Having a little fun, officer.
The cop made us get into the back seat of his prowler, frightening the shit out of us.
What had we done? Where were we going? Was he going to kill us? Was seducing truck drivers into honking their horn a capital offense?
When the cop pulled up in front of my cousin’s house and let us out, both our moms came out as frightened and shocked as we were. Was somebody hurt? Did the kids get caught shoplifting, getting into a fight or worse, fondle a girl?
MOMS: What’s the problem, officer?
COP: I found your boys on the side of the street hitchhiking.
MOMS: Hitchhiking? Oh my!
US: No we weren’t! We were trying to–
MOMS: Don’t argue with the police officer, sons.
COP: Hitchhiking is illegal in the city to begin with. But at six years old, it can be extremely dangerous.
US: Mommy! We were trying to get the drivers to honk their horns!
COP: That’s a very cute story, but I’m sure they were hitchhiking. They were holding their thumbs out like this.
US: No, we weren’t! We were pumping our–
MOMS: Don’t interrupt!
That was it.
We couldn’t for the life of us convince this officious prick we were communicating with our highway heroes. We had been HITCHHIKING, looking for some obese middle-aged perv to pick us up and take us into the Ohio hills never to be seen again. End of discussion.
This was the beginning of my mistrust of authority.
Lesson learned: No matter how much you protest, no matter how right you are, how innocent you may be, THE OFFICER is always right.
This little summertime episode with my cousin Frankie led to, I’m convinced, a lifetime of rebellion, drinking, drugs, sexual frustration, several instances of jail time and my decision to become a disc jockey and later an actor instead of growing into a responsible citizen with a real job.
On the good side however, I’m certain this adventure also led to Frankie becoming a district judge in the fine state of Ohio along the lines of the honorable judge Robert Taft. I don’t think Taft ever had a run in with the law though. I’ve always wondered if Frankie thinks of our confrontation with the cop.
Frankie’s glass was half full.